Monday, March 30

Reflections on 1Q2015

It's hard to believe we have burned through three months of 2015 already.  It's been very productive for the Frugal Miser homestead:

  • I've lost 6 pounds.
  • Total debt has declined by $12,000.
  • Net worth has increased by $18,000.
  • I've had a solid work schedule, including a record quarter for hospitality jobs.  I am now the team lead at some events I work, which means marginally higher pay for that work.  Mystery shopping jobs have also been steady.
  • I listed one of the Birmingham rental properties for sale.  My thoughts are now leaning towards exiting that market over time.
  • We have four exciting trips coming up:  a mystery shopping trip to Puerto Rico, shareholder's meetings in New York and Omaha, and a May vacation to Las Vegas/Denver.

Tuesday, March 3

My Frugal Miser - February Expenses: $2,384

I set a goal to spend $1,250 per month in 2015, excluding home repairs and vacations.  After taking out the $684 I spent on those two categories, I spent $1,700 in February.

Once again, owning a car kept me from my goal.  In fact, half of my spending last month went to my car, thanks to an unexpected repair.

I did well in a few key categories.  I need to spend less than $270/mo on food; I spent $230.  Utilities were low because I did not have a water bill and the power bill arrived after the month ended.  I prepaid my health insurance for February when I switched to a new plan.

March is going to be tough as well.  I had to have a tooth extracted, which alone will take up half my monthly budget.

February Expenses:  $2,384

$1,206 Auto ($4 for gas, $640 for depreciation, $535 for repair, $27 for new headlight bulbs)
$37 Bank Fees
$0 Clothing
$0 Computer
$107 Entertainment (movies, gambling, alcohol)
$230 Food
$6 Gifts Given
$441 Household/Housing/Home Repair
$0 Home Insurance
$24 Health and Dental Insurance
$0 Investment Expenses
$0 Medical/Dental
$0 Miscellaneous
$10 Personal Care
$0 Subscriptions
$0 Taxes
$48 Utilities
$274 Vacation and Recreation

February Expenses, Excluding Vacation and Home Repairs:  $1,700

My Frugal Miser - February Income: $6,428

February was an average month.  My highest-value property is vacant and my perpetually trouble tenant at one of the townhouses did not pay rent.  The loss of income from those two properties definitely shows up in the results.
Additionally, I spent a lot on mystery shopping, so the income amount is about $500 lower for February and will be that much higher in March.

I've been doing a lot of hospitality work.  I love not having reports to enter at the end of the day, but the income tends to be slightly less than I could earn from a full day of mystery shopping.  Having said that, I'm not turning down any shops, so overall the hospitality work supplements, not replaces, my other work.

February Income $6,428

$914 Mystery Shopping
$5,428 Rental Income
$86 Other Sources

  • I don't include transactions in my retirement accounts.  This includes rental income, dividends and capital gains and losses.
  • I include merchandising and hospitality work in the mystery shopping category since the companies that I shop for provide this extra side work. 

Saturday, February 21

Observations, My Week in Review

We spent five days in Birmingham this past week.  We arrived Saturday afternoon and immediately went to the rental house to check its condition.  This is my second most valuable property, and was earning me the highest monthly rent, $1,250.  The tenants of four years decided to downsize, which was unfortunate news because their original plan was to purchase the house from me.  When we arrived at the house, it was immediately obvious that the tenants hadn't moved all their stuff.  A quick call to my tenant lead to the promise they would have everything out by Monday afternoon.  I wasn't thrilled by this since it meant we were effectively in Birmingham two days earlier than we needed to be, but with the utilities still in the tenants' name, and the wife being a lawyer, I wasn't about to protest too loud.

Fortunately, there was a small project at one of the townhouses that I wanted to tackle, so we spent Sunday afternoon doing that job.  Then Monday we ate lunch at my favorite Birmingham restaurant, Surin.  I had the Spicy Eggplant Noodle bowl.  It's thick base relies on coconut milk to give it a thick, savory flavor.  Hit the spot.  I picked up a homeless acquaintance whom I try to use for light demolition/repair work anytime I am in the area and the three of us headed to the house.

Over the next three days we ripped out the carpet, painted the entire house, and made a few repairs.  I met with my real estate agent about listing the property.  She was optimistic about the price we should list at and said the real estate market has picked up in Birmingham.  I hope she's right.  I bought the carpet and install at Lowe's and then called a new handyman to tackle a couple of drywall repairs that I tried to do.  Repairing damaged drywall is a talent that skipped me, and my work always looks crappy no matter how hard I try.  This biggest part of the job was a ceiling repair so it did not get in the way of us painting the walls.

The financial damage wasn't too bad.  Only the mileage (a vehicle depreciation expense) and our food will show up on my monthly budget.  The hotel (a Candlewood Suites for $60/night) will be a rental expense as will the repairs, which I report in my business expenses.  I spent less than $3,000 on repairs, including the carpet, paint and handyman.

Back to Reality

We left early Thursday morning; the temperature was in the teens!  We made decent time and arrived home around 6 PM.  I spent yesterday catching up on bills, reading newspapers and cleaning out the car.  Today the weather in West Central Florida is returning to normal.  We experienced a low temperature of 34 degrees yesterday, and some of the plants in our tropical garden got frostbite.  Today the high is in the mid-70s and we might even reach 80 tomorrow.  This is why I moved to Florida!  Today I am working a demonstration at Home Depot for five hours.  Then on Sunday I have a gas station route and a restaurant shop.  Next week I have a route of low-paying inventory shops.  The jobs are easy (10 minutes each) but only pay $5 each, and I am regretting having taken them now that I realize they hardly move the needle.